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First Royal Air Force Pilot Qualifies on Boeing 737 AEW&C (E-7 Wedgetail)


First Royal Air Force Pilot Qualifies on Boeing 737 AEW&C (E-7 Wedgetail)

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First Royal Air Force Pilot Qualifies on Boeing 737 AEW&C (E-7 Wedgetail)
First Royal Air Force Pilot Qualifies on Boeing 737 AEW&C (E-7 Wedgetail)

The Royal Air Force’s E-7 Wedgetail AEW1 Programme has reached another milestone with Officer Commanding VIII Squadron (Designate), Wing Commander Sarah McDonnell, qualifying on type. The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and Boeing Australia delivered the qualifying course, which culminated in Wg Cdr McDonnell’s graduation during the Summer 2023. The course, a mix of ground school (class-based instruction and simulator training) and live flying on the RAAF E-7A Wedgetail, concluded with an end of course exercise, where the Wedgetail worked closely with F-35 Lightning. Following graduation, Wg Cdr McDonnell will now maintain currency on the Wedgetail AEW1, as part of the RAF’s Seedcorn programme, until the arrival of the UK’s Wedgetail aircraft.

“This is another milestone in my journey towards commanding No 8 Squadron in the not-too-distant future, which is a real privilege. I absolutely love this new capability and the camaraderie I felt working as part of a crew again reminded me of my time on the E-3D Sentry. I have learned so much from the RAAF team and I’m hugely grateful for their continued and unwavering support. I am extremely proud to be joining the team of UK qualified E-7 Wedgetail operators, but more importantly as a collective we cannot wait to return to the UK and start flying our own Wedgetail AEW1,” Wing Commander Sarah McDonnell said.

Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) E-7A Wedgetail (Boeing 737 AEW&C)
Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) E-7A Wedgetail (Boeing 737 AEW&C) airborne early warning and control (AEW&C). (Photo by Royal Air Force)

The Seedcorn programme, sees RAF technicians, and aircrew embedded within 2 Squadron at RAAF Williamtown, New South Wales. The symbiotic relationship assists the RAAF with the delivery of E-7A Wedgetail capability and will provide a vital core of experienced personnel to operate UK Wedgetail at RAF Lossiemouth. The E-7 Wedgetail is the most capable and effective airborne early warning and control platform in operation today and has the growth path to match the expected threat over the next 20 years. The RAF has purchased three Wedgetails, which are in various stages of modification by STS Aviation at Birmingham Airport. The handover of the first aircraft to the RAF is expected in late 2024. The Wedgetail AEW1 fleet will be based at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland.

The Boeing 737 AEW&C is a twin-engine airborne early warning and control aircraft based on the Boeing 737 Next Generation design. It is lighter than the 707-based Boeing E-3 Sentry, and has a fixed, active electronically scanned array radar antenna instead of a rotating one. It was designed for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) under “Project Wedgetail” and designated E-7A Wedgetail. The 737 AEW&C has also been selected by the Turkish Air Force (under “Project Peace Eagle”, Turkish: Bar?? Kartal?, designated E-7T, the Republic of Korea Air Force (“Project Peace Eye”), and the United Kingdom (designated Wedgetail AEW1). The 737 AEW&C is roughly similar to the 737-700ER. It uses the Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems Multi-role Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) radar.

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